April 2010 News: The Houston Family Law Blog

The Houston Family Law Blog

April 2010 Archives

Does Autism Lead to Divorce?

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Married couples who have autistic children sometimes have to overcome hurdles in their marriage on top of caring for autistic children. Texas family law attorneys say that divorces are common among parents who have children with autism, perhaps because of the time and energy that goes into taking care of such kids.

The National Autism Association reports that 80 percent of couples with autistic children get divorced, however there some people in Houston that are trying to change this. As stated in Fox News, Scott and Ashley Jackson are hoping to tackle the high divorce rate among couples with special needs children by providing parents with a "date night."

More Houston Residents Accepting Adoption For Gay Couples

More and more people in Houston have come to support the idea of adoption for gay couples, as shown through a newly-released study. Fox News reports that the Houston Area Study conducted by Dr. Stephen Klineberg found that only 19 percent of the people in the Houston area favored adoption rights for gay couples in 1991. Now in the year 2010, the study shows that the percentage has increased to 52 percent.

"I think the main difference [in acceptance] is more and more people know somebody who is gay or lesbian," says Houston Adoption Attorney Mitchell Katine, who handles legal matters surrounding adoptions for gay couples and lesbian couples.

Houston Father Gets Custody of Son in Child Abduction Case

Associated Press reports that a Houston father is now in an intense child custody battle with a Brazilian woman, who is the mother of his child. Kevin Birotte last saw his son at a court hearing when the child was just one and one half years old. His son will be 5 years of age this August.

The mother, Hilma Aparecida Caldeira, brought her son to Brazil in 2006 to visit her relatives. However, the woman decided to stay in the South American country and not return to the United States with her son. Kevin Birotte says that she filed for divorce and child custody that same year. It was because of these actions that there is now this child abduction case.

Family Law Attorneys Analyze The Larry King Divorce

CNN's television personality Larry King filed divorce papers with his current wife last week in Los Angeles, but the San Francisco Chronicle reports that couple may try to work things out in their marriage by attending marriage counseling sessions. Yet, the Larry King divorce papers are still filed.

Larry King's family law attorney said that there's a "50-50 chance that the divorce is not happening." At the age of 76, Larry King has quite a great deal of experience when it comes to divorce. His current wife, Shawn Southwick, is the Larry King's seventh wife. If he and Shawn Southwick split, then it will be Larry King's eighth divorce. This is because Larry King married and divorced one of his wives twice.

Houston Fire Dept. Takes 9-Month-Old Baby

If you have a baby, but can't handle the responsibility of the child, there are places you can go and things that you can do. The Texas Baby Moses Law allows for mothers to voluntarily leave infants 60 days or younger with an emergency medical care provider, according to the University of Texas. Under the Baby Moses Law, a mother will not be able to be convicted of child endangerment or abandonment if she wishes to give up a newborn child to emergency care providers.

Orthopedic Surgeon Involved in Child Custody Dispute

Lynanne Jane Foster, a 37-year-old orthopedic surgeon and former team doctor for the Houston Comets, has been put on house arrest and will be carrying a GPS monitoring system so that probation officers can track all of her whereabouts. How did this woman get into so much trouble with the law? As it turns out, the doctor has been involved in a dramatic child custody dispute that has led to criminal charges.

The Houston Chronicle reports that after more than seven years of marriage, Lynanne Foster divorced her husband Galen Kaufman in 2003 and agreed to joint custody of their daughter. However, in July 2008, the doctor took their child on vacation to Costa Rica and wrote a letter to her parents that she and her daughter were not planning on making a return. Because she abducted her daughter and took her to Costa Rica without Galen Kaufman's knowledge, she was indicted by a Kendall County grand jury on the felony offense of interference with child custody in October 2008.

Study Shows That Spanking a Child Leads to Aggression

Spanking a child as a form of punishment may not be a good idea for many legal reasons, but now, Time Magazine reports that there's a new reason to avoid spanking when disciplining young children.

Researchers at Tulane University found that in a study of 2,500 children, those who were spanked more frequently at the age of 3 were more likely to be aggressive by the age of 5. The study accounts for factors such as acts of neglect by the mother, violence or aggression between the parents, maternal stress and depression, the mother's use of alcohol and drugs, and even whether the mother considered abortion while pregnant with the child. Researchers concluded that each of these factors contributes to aggressive behavior in a child at age 5.

Adopting Russian Boy Turns Into An Adoption Revocation

Torry Hansen of Tennessee adopted a 7-year-old boy from Russia earlier this year, but ABC's Good Morning America reports that the woman recently sent the boy back on a plane to Moscow with a note in his pocket saying that she no longer wishes to parent the boy named Artyem Savilev.

"This child is mentally unstable," Torry Hansen wrote in a note to the Russian Ministry of Education, as reported by ABC. "He is violent and has severe psychopathic issues/behaviors. I was lied to and misled by the Russian orphanage workers and director regarding his mental stability and other issues."

Custody Change After Father Views Porn With Child

In Randall County, a woman is trying to alter a child-custody agreement with her ex-husband, because she claims that the man showed her 8-year-old daughter pornography. NPR reports that Crystal Buckner was first informed that her daughter had seen pornography with her ex-husband when the child admitted her experience to a therapist. The therapist then told the mother and then called child protective services in northern Texas.

The father, Jack A. Buckner II, claims that he showed porn to his three daughters because he said sex was something that the girls needed to know about. And while the man is currently being charged with child endangerment over the porn viewing incident, NPR states that educational intent is a defense under Texas law. To be convicted of child endangerment in Texas, the district attorney of Randall County will have to prove that the father put his daughters in "imminent danger of mental impairment" by showing the porn.

Learning About the Adoption Home Study Process

According to Findlaw, all U.S states require prospective adoptive parents to participate in a home study. This process is intended to educate and prepare a family for adoption and to let social workers evaluate how fit a family is for an adoption.

It's common for some prospective parents to have anxiety over the home study process, as it could be somewhat of an intrusive process. Adoption.com reports that the home study process in Texas is supposed to be an inspection of the home, background, financial ability to raise a child, parenting skills, and many other aspects of a person's life. Prospective parents will need to complete a criminal history background check and an abuse and neglect check. Yet it might be helpful to know that adoption agencies are not usually looking for the perfect parents, but rather parents who can be accommodating. A home study process may also help parents decide whether adoption is right for the family.

Many Gay Couples Now Getting Married in Mexico City

The legislature of Mexico City passed the first law in Latin America allowing marriage between same-sex couples last month, giving gay marriages the same status as heterosexual ones in the federal district. Since the law took effect on March 4, Associated Press reports that 88 same-sex couples have so far tied the knot in Mexico's capital.

Of the newly married same-sex couples, 50 were reported to be male couples and 38 were reported to be female couples. There are also currently 37 more same-sex couples that are scheduled to be married in Mexico City between April and June of this year.

Dennis Hopper Ordered to Pay Alimony and Child Support

While Dennis Hopper might be on his death bed in his fight against prostate cancer, his family law attorney says that the actor also has concerns about the financial aspects of divorce, spousal support, and child support.

ABC News reports that a Los Angeles judge ruled on Monday that Dennis Hopper must pay $8,000 a month in alimony to his estranged wife Victoria Duffy-Hopper, and another $4,000 to the woman for child support. Ms. Duffy-Hopper is the actor's fifth wife. The two have one seven-year-old child together named Galen.

New Law Proposed For Pregnancy Crisis Centers in Austin

Austin City Council Member Bill Spelman proposed an ordinance last week that would require certain pregnancy crisis centers to notify clients when birth control services or abortion services are not offered. The city of Austin would be the second city in the country to have such a law. The Austin American-Statesman reports that the city of Baltimore is now the only city that has this type of ordinance in place.

The council member is proposing certain requirements for pregnancy crisis centers that don't offer or refer clients to abortion services or birth control services. Such centers would have to display two , 8.5- by 11 -inch signs at the entrance of their facilities saying "This center does not provide abortions or refer to abortion providers. This center does not provide or refer to providers of U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved birth control drugs and medical devices." One sign would have to be in English and one in Spanish, and both would have to have a font size of at least 48 points.

Houston Man With Violent History Accused of Killing Child

When a baby was crying in Houston last week, 32-year-old Nathaniel Flowers "got a little too rough" with the child, according to the Houston Chronicle. Doctors said that the child had a fractured skull, bleeding in the brain, and bruises around the mouth -- injuries that are consistent with shaken baby syndrome.

The three-month-old child, Kamron Deshawn Kelly, was later pronounced dead. Officials with Child Protective Services are now investigating the the circumstances that led to the boy's death. Mr. Flowers was the boyfriend of Kamron's mother.

Granny Get Your Gun: Child Support Battle

It's never too late to collect overdue child support payments. It can still matter even if you're 81-years-old, and your son is over the age of 60. The Houston Chronicle reports that one elderly woman has now hired a family law attorney so that she can collect $57,000 is child support that is 60 years overdue.

The dispute between Rosemary Douglas and Urban Joseph Grass may seem quite comical, yet their stories seem to contradict one another. Ms. Douglas, the mother, claims that Mr. Grass was ordered to pay $50 a month in child support back in 1950. Mr. Grass claims that he never knew of such an order. He says that he went to one court hearing, but that he wasn't ordered to pay anything and was never asked to appear in court again.

The Dependent Exemption For Taxpayers

There are many rewards to having children; including the dependency exemption that allows parents to pay lower taxes. New parents especially may see this tax break as a bit of relief, because it can be very expensive to raise a baby. Kiplinger reports that a parent can usually knock off $3,650 off his or her taxable income for each child that is claimed as a dependent.

FindLaw states that in order to claim a child as a dependent, the child must be under the age of 19. However, there are exceptions that allow older children to be claimed as dependants as well. For example, a parent can claim a child as a dependent if he or she is a student and has not yet reached the age of 24. A parent who has a permanently disabled child can also claim the dependency exemption under Section 152(c)(3).

April Marks Child Abuse Prevention Month

Now is a good time to take action against child abuse, since April is Child Abuse Prevention Month in the state of Texas and in the United States. According to Brownwood News, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services records that there are nearly 200,000 children in Texas that are abused or neglected each year.

Child Protective Services is the agency that usually gets involved with child abuse cases, but Brownwood News reports that CPS cannot get involved with every case before serious damage is done. Texas family law attorneys will often get involved with child abuse cases if there is a child custody issue at hand. Separated or divorced couples who have kids often argue who gets custody of the children. If one parent has had a history of abusing a child, then a Houston family law attorney would have a good argument for why that abusive parent shouldn't get custody.

Travis County Judge Lets Gay Divorce Stand

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott made a request to intervene in Travis County's first same-sex divorce case between Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly, according to the Houston Chronicle. Yet, a Travis County judge declined to consider the case on Wednesday.

Attorney General Abbott argued that in court filings that Ms. Naylor and Ms. Daly shouldn't legally be granted a divorce because the state of Texas doesn't allow for same-sex marriage and defines marriage between one man and one woman. He also said that granting a divorce between the lesbian couple would subject Ms. Naylor and Ms. Daly to a lifetime of uncertainty. With this case, the two women were able to get married in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal.

James Van Der Beek Ordered To Pay Alimony

James Van Der Beek, an actor who is known for his role on the 1990's television series Dawson's Creek, has recently hit the media spotlight with his divorce to actress Heather Ann McComb. AHN reports that Mr. Van Der Beek will officially be a single man on June 3, when his divorce is finalized.

But with his divorce, a Los Angeles judge ordered the man to pay $7,750 a month in alimony to his soon-to-be ex-wife. This may seem like a lot of money, but let's not forget that the man reportedly earns around $50,000 each month.

Jesse James' Child Custody Battle - Round 2

Jesse James has recently had his family affairs all over news headlines, and now the latest news has to do with the custody of his daughter. The New York Post reports that Mr. James will once again be going through a custody battle with his ex-wife Janine Lindermulder.

Last year, family courts granted Mr. James full custody of their daughter Sunny because Ms. Lindermulder was seen as an unfit parent for the young girl by the court. She was found guilty of tax evasion in the past and currently lives in a halfway house. But since drama has emerged in Mr. James' relationship with Sandra Bullock, the mother now hopes to re-gain custody of Sunny.

Understanding Paternity Testing in Texas

Paternity testing is the procedure that is done to legally establish who the father of a child is. It's a standard procedure when the biological mother is unsure of, or needs proof of who the biological father actually is. And while FindLaw states that these tests have an accuracy range between 90 to 99 percent, Texas family law attorneys will sometimes try to prove in court of the test's inaccuracy.